To attempt to formulate an economic and intellectual argument for controversial project labor agreements, a union-oriented policy organization based in San José called Working Partnerships USA released a report dated October 8, 2012 called Effect of Project Labor Agreements on Local Business Utilization in Santa Clara County, California.
How credible is the Working Partnerships USA report? The California Construction Compliance Group has published Sixteen Flaws in the October 2012 Working Partnerships USA Argument for Project Labor Agreements on Community College District Construction in Santa Clara County, my critical examination of that report.
While the Working Partnerships USA researchers apparently collected a great deal of data and the authors addressed some interesting questions, their report in its current form includes logical errors, false assumptions, and broad generalizations. This paper identifies at least 16 fundamental flaws in the report:
- The Group That Produced the Report Has an Overt Ideological Bias
- The Group That Funded This Report Uses the Report to Help Advance Its Own Political Interests
- The Report Inexplicably Excludes Construction Contracts Awarded by the Fourth Community College District Based in Santa Clara County
- The Report Does Not Offer Its Source Data for Evaluation
- The Report Does Not Accurately State What It Is Measuring
- The Report Lacks the “Economic” Analysis Expected of an Economic Policy Report
- The Report Compares Two Data Sets That Are Rather Narrow
- The Report Does Not Account for Variations in Sizes and Types of Contracts
- Time Periods Used for the Report Are Vague, Arbitrary, and Inconsistent
- Key Terms in the Report Are Inconsistent and Poorly Defined
- The Report Defines Local in an Absurd Way
- The Report Shows Favoritism for Certain Geographic Regions
- The Report Includes Distorted Estimates of Commute Distances
- The Report Fails to Recognize that Northern California Is a Regional Construction Market
- The Report Is Fattened with Non-Relevant and Unproven Statements
- The Report Makes Uncritical Assumptions About the Inherent Superiority of Contracts Awarded to Local Businesses
Debates over project labor agreements at California local governments tend to prioritize politics over logic. The Working Partnerships USA report – as currently written – attempts to justify a preconceived ideological concept with a logical, intellectual economic argument. In this exercise, it fails.
UPDATE: The Santa Clara and San Benito Building and Construction Trades Council had planned to use the study from the pro-union think tank Working Partnerships USA as an intellectual argument for the elected board of the West Valley-Mission Community College District to require contractors to sign a project labor agreement. At the December 11, 2012 meeting of the college board, the author of the Working Partnerships USA study expressed her distress and outrage about the unexpected and devastating analysis of flaws in her study. It remains to be seen if the board will mandate a project labor agreement on future construction.
See my three blog posts about this union lobbying effort: